Opening Academic Year 2 September 2019

We are in charge!

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam can look back on a fantastic Opening of the Academic Year (OAJ). The theme for the day was democratic leadership, under the motto: 'We are in charge!' 

In her speech, President of the Executive Board Mirjam van Praag talked about the resilience of our democracy in this era of social media, advancing technology, populism and polarization, and what this requires from leaders in politics and government. On the role of VU Amsterdam in this, she said the following: ‘With all the challenges and disruptive changes that are coming down the line, I see a bright future for VU Amsterdam because of our emphasis on safety, connectedness and branching out. Our valuable and values-driven science and education will drive us forwards.’ 

Mirjam van Praag

The Brotherhood Brassband got the audience swinging.


Paul Rosenmöller, chair of the VO council and chair of GroenLinks in the Senate, looked back on his own development as a leader, concluding that there is no easy recipe for leadership. He divided his journey towards leadership into three periods. His time as a dockworker, as a politician and as chair of the VO council. ‘In my opinion, leadership has three essential ingredients: Vision, Connection and Trust’. 

Paul Rosenmöller

Diederick van der Wijk of Forward Incubator and Pieter Lossie, chair of LAKS, spoke about leadership in younger generations. Van Wijk used stories about the uprising in Syria and Kamal, a Syrian refugee, to demonstrate how he and his company are trying to help refugees towards better lives. Pieter Lossie believes that everyone deserves the same opportunities, regardless of where they come from and who they are. Using newspaper articles and a video clip, he showed how his own generation now faces worse prospects than previous generations. Inspired by his social studies teacher, this is what drives his own leadership and his struggle for equal opportunities for schoolchildren and students.


Our Writer in Residence, Arnon Grunberg, gave a reading of his column ‘Let us always remain critical’. ‘If myths come to be seen as facts, we are all in danger of becoming followers of bad regimes.’

Arnon Grunberg

To conclude, our Rector Magnificus, Vinod Subramaniam, welcomed the winners of the Spinoza Prize and Gravity Prize to the stage. All in all, a great start to what is sure to be an exciting academic year.

Winnaars Spinozaprijs en Zwaartekracht

The Opening of the Academic Year marked the introduction of our theme for this year, Governance for Society, Governance for Society, which we will continuing to explore throughout the year.

3.15 p.m. 
Reception in The Foyer
3.45 p.m.
Aula open, music by The Brotherhood Brassband
4.00 p.m.
Opening speech by Mirjam van Praag
4.20 p.m.
Speech by Paul Rosenmöller
4.35 p.m.
Interview with young leader Diederick van der Wijk, led by Eva Brouwer
4.40 p.m.
Interview with yount leader Peter Lossie, led by Eva Brouwer
5.05 p.m.
Column by Arnon Grunberg
5.10 p.m.
Closure by Mirjam van Praag
5.15 p.m.
Drinks in The Foyer, accompanied by the Brotherhood Brassband

Mirjam van Praag
Since 1 March 2018 Mirjam van Praag is president of the Executive Board, of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Together with the rector and the vice-president, she is responsible for the daily management of VU Amsterdam.
Paul Rosenmöller
Paul Rosenmöller is chairman of the VO-raad, the Dutch interest organization of  school boards and schools in secondary education, and he is chairman of GroenLinks in the senate.
Arnon Grunberg
Arnon Grunberg is a Dutch writer. He has been the writer in residence of VU Amsterdam since 1 June 2019. During his appointment he will reflect on the theme Governance for Society, about the resilience of democracy.
Eva Brouwer
Eva Brouwer is chair of the day and author of the book 'In 10 stappen je podium pakken'. She studied history at Utrecht University and worked for ten years at RTV Utrecht as the presenter of the daily news bulletin. Brouwer now works as day chairperson and presentation coach with the motto 'Pak je Podium!'
Diederick van der Wijk
Diederick van der Wijk started in 2017 together with David Hwan, Forward Incubator (formerly Refugees Forward), to support entrepreneurs with a refugee background in setting up their own business. Forward Incubator is now active in Rotterdam and 45 entrepreneurs have completed the program, of which 26 have started a business. Forward Incubator relies on the voluntary commitment of experienced entrepreneurs, ambitious students and the business community.
Pieter LossiePieter Lossie (17) from Harmelen is the chairman of the National Action Committee for Students (LAKS), representing one million students in the Netherlands. As a political lobbyist and organizer of YouthforclimateNL, he spoke with Mark Rutte and Eric Wiebes during the major student strikes. He is busy now to obtain his VWO diploma.
Brotherhood Brassband

The Brotherhood Brassband originated in the early eighties from a group of Surinamese and Antillean friends. With djembe's, string and tenor drums they walked in demonstrations against apartheid and to get Nelson Mandela free. Their most powerful means of communication is music, the only language in the world without national borders! In 1989 the name drum band was changed to brass band because wind players, campana players and dancers had come to strengthen the band. Now the band plays bigi poku, reggae with carnival rhythm, merenque, salsa and sambabrass music. The band specially known in Amsterdam-Zuidoost. Their philosophy is: brotherhood, respect, creativity, self-development and being a positive example for black youth.

The event will take place in de Aula of the mail building of VU Amsterdam. At De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam.
The programme is in Dutch. To accommodate international guests, an English-speaking interpreter is present. Headsets are available.

We invite professors to take part in the procession. The procession will form at 3:45 the Foyer. Professors and Members of the Council of Deans will wear the ceremonial cap and gown.

Do you have any questions? Please send an email to: [email protected]

Please also visit the VU On The Roof Film Festival from 3 until 6 September. All films shown will have a connection with our year-theme 'Governance for Society'.